At best, Martin, who inked a one-year contract worth up to $1.475 million, would be a complementary piece to Marshawn Lynch, the erstwhile Muscle Hamster serving as the lightning to Beast Mode’s thunder. At worst, Martin was shot, his best years behind him, washed up after averaging 2.9 yards per carry his two previous seasons, and he would be lucky to finish the season.
Instead, with Lynch on injured reserve after suffering a groin injury against the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 14 in London, Martin has rounded into shape and is averaging more yards per carry than Lynch, 4.24 to 4.18. Plus, with Gruden not sure if Lynch will return this season -- he would be eligible for the last two games -- and with Lynch also scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, Martin might have earned himself a contract for 2019.
Or did you miss Gruden’s assessment last week?
“Hopefully,” Gruden said at the time, “we can keep him around here. He’s a heckuva football player.”
Indeed, Martin has been a pleasant surprise, leading the Raiders with 445 yards on the ground as their No. 1 back … even if Jalen Richard is more versatile.
All but 99 of Martin’s rushing yards have come after Lynch went down, and Martin is averaging 4.4 yards per carry in that time, with two touchdowns, one in each of the past two games. He has caught 16 passes for 106 yards on the season.
Does Martin, who turns 30 on Jan. 13, think he has proven his worth?
“I think I’ve shown it,” Martin said after Sunday’s 40-33 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. “I wish I had some games back. Some injuries kind of limited me in some aspects, but I’ve got about four more games to still show what I can do. I feel like I’ve had a good run.”
If Lynch, who said he did not see himself playing for the Raiders in Las Vegas in 2020, is not brought back next season, imagine an Oakland backfield of Martin, Richard and the bruising Chris Warren, an undrafted rookie from Texas who was stashed on injured reserve this season, with DeAndre Washington the wild card.
Add C.J. Anderson -- who according to sources signed with the Raiders on Tuesday -- and a year of experience in Gruden’s offense, and the running game should take a step forward, no?
There were glimpses of it in the Raiders’ loss to the Chiefs, a game in which Martin, Richard and Washington all lost fumbles, while Derek Carr completed 76.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 285 yards, including three touchdowns to Jared Cook, Lee Smith and Marcell Ateman.
“... The turnovers really hurt us," Martin said. "Who knows. The better team won. The better team who didn’t make mistakes won.”
Martin rushed for 61 yards against the Chiefs, tied for his second-highest single-game total with Oakland. He rushed for 72 yards against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 28.
“We had flashes on offense where all cylinders were firing,” Martin said. “Derek’s passing game, the running game was flying off, spreading the ball around to Marcell, Jordy [Nelson], myself, Jalen. That’s where I thought this offense would be.”
Might it be like that in 2019? Should it?